Summer has traditionally been a time of work overload for potters. In many cultures, it was a time of getting the crops in, irrigating, harvesting, cutting firewood and, in between, firing a whole winter’s worth of pots. In other cultures, summer meant a respite from winter rains so pots could be made and they would actually dry. In more recent years, it became the season of craft fairs with potters hauling their works from one town to another.
But stretching out in a hammock with a good book? Curling up in the old wicker chair on the back porch and spending hours reading? Certainly potters deserve this indulgence, this opportunity for quiet moments to take in an author’s works as much as vacationing nine-to-fivers do I suspect however, that even though a stack of must-read books calls, many potters feel compelled to stay in the studio.
So I have been delighted with the Summer Reading thread on John Britt’s popular Clay Club blog. What started with a recommendation for the Steig Larson bestselling mysteries has turned to pottery related books. Yes! You could even say, guilt free reading (not that anyone should ever feel guilt for reading…).
Summer, it seems to me, might be the time for fiction and memoir (I know, recently there has been evidence that some memoirs ARE fiction, but surely not potter’s memoirs). For fiction, we saw the YA A Single Shard on the Clay Club. May I also suggest Jose Saramago’s The Cave about an elderly potter who just wants to keep making his pots. Saramago, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1998, died a year ago. All of his works are worth reading, but this in my ceramic heart, is his best.
Potters have written quite a few memoirs. One that I go back and reread over and over, at least parts, is The Invisible Core by Marguerite Wildenhain, published in 1973. She writes, “The war was still on, and I had been about a year and a half at work when one day I happened to run into the workshops where the model-makers were throwing models on the potter’s wheel. I was simply hypnotized, and in that second I decided that that was what I was going to do, not those stupid flower designs on vases.” Stubborn and determined throughout her live, she followed through, often under very difficult circumstances, never doubting herself (or her talent). The Invisible Core takes us through her youth, the war years, to Pond Farm, the rural California hilltop pottery where she worked for the last thirty years of her life, often alone, and without sufficient funds, but an inspiration and tough teacher to the students who followed here there. Sadly, the book is out of print, but there is an abundance of used copies available online. I worry what this means. Aging hippy-potters sent to nursing homes or the grave, their personal libraries bought by dealers? My copy has a torn jacket. Maybe I’ll try to find a better one.
Meanwhile, check out the ongoing summer reading suggestions on the Clay Club if you haven’t already.